Welcome back for another installment of CUP O’ JOE! Exclusively here at CBR, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada answers questions posed by you, the readers, in CBR’s Marvel Universe forum as well as CBR staff. And this week, in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, Joe took an opportunity to double stuff readers with content in an extended Q&A that started Wednesday, discussing Hollywood, comic sales and more.
Dig back into those delectable interview leftovers and browse around our CUP O’ JOE mini-site for the latest installments of Joe’s regular CUP O’ Q&A interviews, a brand new poll that gives you a say in the future of Marvel, and more!
Today’s Q&A dives into event comics, where Joe offers lengthy thoughts on whether or not “event fatigue” really exists for fans and pros, talks up the future of his biggest competition, teases future plans for Spider-Man and Mary Jane and explains why Marvel won’t be chasing the “Twilight” bandwagon any time soon.
CUP O’ JOE is Executive Produced by Jonah Weiland and Produced by Kiel Phegley.
Kiel Phegley: Joe, your counterpart at DC, Dan Didio, did an interview with us recently where, when it came to the idea of “event fatigue” he said, “Event fatigue is a statement for ‘The event doesn’t work’ or ‘The event isn’t interesting.’ That’s what event fatigue is. If you’re creating stories just for the sake of having events to tie things together with no real meat on the bones, then you’re going to have event fatigue because you have all this promotion and drive and anticipation, but you’ve under-delivered on what the expectations are.” In general, do you agree with that sentiment, or do you feel there’s really some withdrawal in the market from these big stories?
Joe Quesada: I think it’s a matter of how you’re defining event fatigue. However, I personally think it’s a mistake to think that it’s not a reality, but that’s just me. Whether it’s blockbuster movies or blockbuster comic events, there is a point where you can produce the greatest stories known to man, and if you overload your customer base and constantly clang the dinner bell, you will end up eating your own tail.
Look, the truth of the matter is that, if you market a story as an event, even if it’s not the greatest story known to man, I will bet you dollars to donuts that you’re going to sell better numbers on those titles than anything else in your line. Fatigue, however, comes in many forms, and in some cases may be tough to quantify. Who is to say that “Blackest Night” wouldn’t have sold three times what it did if it hadn’t been following the plethora of events that have been produced by both DC and Marvel over the last several years? That’s the mystery number, that’s the thing that is so very hard to put a finger on the pulse of. Sure, we can say the economy has something to do with it, but I would also argue that when you end up screaming at your fans, “This is it, Weezy! This is the big one!” that eventually, some stop listening.
Also, when I’m refering to event fatigue, it’s not just about the readership. It’s event fatigue within editorial. It’s event fatigue within the creative community. There’s a lot of that stuff going on where you start to hear your creators and editors talk about this exhaustion that comes with putting these events together. So in our case, we’re taking a look at this and saying, “It’s a good time to pull back from this for a bit. It’s good for our readership, it’s good for our creators, it’s good for our publishing division to take a breather, to take a look at what our creators want to do and the stories they want to tell and then to come back on all cylinders.” Quite frankly, I look at this particular time as an investment in our future. It’s a clearing of our heads so that we can then dig in and blow our reader’s minds one more time.
Again, within the world of creating stories and creating entertainment there is ebb and flow. And sometimes you’ve got to step back and try to feel it and where we’re at within it. This is something I’ve learned, going back to creating a 22-page comic book story -Â seeing the quiet moments in a story, building to your crescendo and knowing when to drop it down again to prepare for the next big explosion. It’s no different when creating stories for a whole universe. You have to give your readers that moment to come back down to earth, to take a deep breath, and then you hit ’em between the eyes with something they don’t expect. If you keep hitting them and hitting them and hitting them, each subsequent event -Â I firmly believe this – will lose its impact. Every company has seen this over the history of comics. You can not constantly hit that note, because eventually it becomes like crack or heroine. You’re publishing bottom line starts to depend on it and you end up forgetting how to just publish comics if you’re not careful. How do we make it bigger? How do we make it better? Eventually, it’s just the point of diminishing returns where you’re just looking for that next high, fiscally and creatively. I hate to use the drug metaphor, but I remember bringing this up at an editorial meeting a few years ago where I said, “There’s going to come a point as a company where we’re going to have to take a stand and pull back to regroup. Let’s reset and figure out what the next phase is for the Marvel Universe.” And, “Siege” is that perfect point.
So I do believe there is a point when I say “event fatigue” where you need to recharge your batteries. If not, eventually you’re going to make a big mistake, and then what’ll happen is that events will become something you can’t rely on. It’ll become a tool you can’t use. When I talk to young artists, I talk about using a splash page or using panel borders breaks as explosive things that make your art as three-dimensional as you can possibly make it on a two-dimensional page. But if you use that on every page, eventually the reader becomes numb to it. Then it’s a tool you have to re-establish and rebuild if you want to use it again with any modicum of success. For me, that’s where the fatigue comes in. Will you continue to sell books? Sure. Absolutely! But, each subsequent event will lose luster as will your entire line if you don’t hit a different note from time to time.
Jonah Weiland: You bring up an interesting point about how this affects the readership, but also creative and editorial. Since you’ve made this shift over the past six months to wrap big events up for a while, have you seen a reinvigoration of your staff in any way?
Absolutely. And it’s still a little early to tell because we’re just now in the throes of “Siege.” This is something we’ll have to talk about six months down the road, to see how it affected not just the editorial crew, but our creators as well. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, there is some trepidation as well. We’re saying, “We’re going to operate without a net for a while, here.” We have to bite that bullet and try to ignore the natural impulses that drive us. That’s the scary thing about “event publishing” – it’s a tempting carrot that really blinds you to the stick. It would be very easy after “Siege” to prepare for the next big blockbuster concept for the Marvel Universe, but I don’t think it is the smartest thing to do. We need a little break. We could absolutely knock something out of the park and sell a kazillion books right on the heels of “Siege,” but when you look at the future of publishing, two or three years down the road, will that future be brighter if we continued grinding it, or will it look dimmer because we’re burning the candle at both ends?
Kiel Phegley: You talk about the long-term future of comics publishing, and everyone seems to agree there’s going to be a lot of shake-ups across comics in 2010 for a number of reasons. But one thing we haven’t hit upon with you is that your competition will be under the helm of a new publisher in the next six months or so. Honestly, what kind of person do you hope to see stepping in for Paul Levitz over there?
You know, I hadn’t really thought about that particular aspect of it. From what I gather right now…I’ve never met Diane Nelson, but from everything I hear and her amazing track record, she seems like an incredibly smart person who’s had a tremendous amount of success at Warner Brothers. Knowing all of this, and from her reputation, I’m sure she has a vision and knows exactly the kind of person they need over there, so I’m sure they’re going to pick a candidate that will be smart and will help move DC to the next level. And that will be good for comics and everyone involved.
Jonah Weiland: What do you think about the formation of DC Entertainment. The announcement came ten days after the Disney deal, so people were crying, “Oh it’s DC’s response to Marvel!” which is crazy, because these things take months and months to set up, but I was curious as to your take on all that.
It’s an interesting theory, however, speculation is just that. Having been the victim of the occasional Internet speculation in my time [Laughter], I take none of that stuff seriously. I realize that it’s just people making up stories in their head, but that’s what comics is all about -Â making up stories, right? Quite frankly, I put no weight behind those theories and just go under the assumption that they have a plan and they’re releasing the information as they choose to. And really, lets be honest, what if they did release the info as an answer to the Disney deal, so what? Really, what difference does it make? I’m sure they’ve had these plans in the works for some time now.
Kiel Phegley: On to some more fun stuff. We know you just wrapped a big Spidey summit in New York this week. Aside from Tweets about bird sex, not much has been said on what the purpose of this particular meet-up was. Who was in town, and what were your marching orders?
It was the usual suspects – sans Marc Guggenheim -Â and I’m assuming people knew Fred Van Lente was there. We just sit around and do what we’re supposed to do, which is hash out the next year-plus worth of Spider-Man stories and where the character is going. There’s some wonderful stuff that will drive our readers insane and make them happy and make them angry like all good Spider-Man stories do.
And with respect to bird sex, look, I can’t help it if Zeb Wells has a serious obsession (sickness). Take it up with him.
Jonah Weiland: You threw a quote out on Twitter along the lines of “Holy crap! We’ve got something huge planned for the Spider-Man line that will make everyone happy!” Can you give us some context on that?
Welllllll, I did say some time ago that many of the unanswered questions about the wedding were going to be answered in 2010, and we’re gearing up to that. It’s very cool to see that we’re finally coming on to that time. But no matter how much we answer, some people will just be upset anyway. I’m looking forward to it. [Laughter]
Kiel Phegley: Since “Brand New Day” kicked off, there have been a few stated goals for the thrice-monthly “Amazing Spider-Man.” First, it was to reestablish single Peter and inject some new life into the property. Lately, you guys have been exploring a “phase two” with the return of several classic villains through this new “Gauntlet” storyline. Is there a “phase three” for “Brand New Day” on the way, and what would that look like?
Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that MJ is going to be back, so that’s going to open a whole new can of worms with respect to relationships the characters will have or won’t have. Should I even say the word “baby”? Should I use that word? I’ll just put that out there: Baby. Mary Jane. Baby. Mary Jane with a… yes, baby. I’ll stop there.
Jonah Weiland: You’re evil. [Laughter] I wanted to ask about “Twilight,” because it’s the big news of the day. People have been saying that with the new movies huge success, there are now two groups of fans out there driving this kind of entertainment. Do you agree with that, and what’s your take on the whole phenomenon?
Does it capture a new audience? Absolutely, but we heard the same thing about Harry Potter when that first exploded onto the scene, and how many years ago was that? I think stuff like this comes around every generation, and “Twilight” is the latest one, and hopefully it has the staying power that Harry Potter had. But to me, it’s all part and parcel of the same thing -Â that sci-fi, fantasy, fantastical fiction boat that we’re all part of whether it be superheroes or vampires or magical kids at Hogwart’s. And yeah, it’s great for everyone.
Jonah Weiland: Has there been a discussion on how to capitalize on “Twilight’s” success at Marvel?
No. It’s not something we’ve actively looked to saying, “How do we get our own ‘Twilight?'” I think that’s fool’s gold. It’s the same thing when you look at Harry Potter. When you really look at Harry Potter, it’s very much the same concept as X-Men, except you replace magic with mutant powers. But the whole school aspect of it has it all there. If you dig into “Twilight,” you’ll see some themes of the stories we already do, but I think it’d be foolish to chase that trend.
I’m not saying we wouldn’t do a vampire story here or there. We’ve done them in the past. But we wouldn’t say, “Hey! We want to capture that ‘Twilight’ audience!” because I don’t think it’s the prudent thing to do, because by the time we catch up, a trend like that could be over. And it exists because they caught magic in a bottle. There’s something about “Twilight” and how it depicts vampires that’s been successful for them. The last time this was really that successful was when the Lestat books were out, but that captured more of a mature audience than this. This is not just capturing young girls, but their moms and everyone in-between. It’s wonderful, and I hope it has lasting power.
Jonah Weiland: We haven’t heard anything about Marvelman since San Diego. When are we going to start seeing Marvelman product, both new and old?
Eventually, eventually. As I mentioned in the past, people are going to have to be patient with this because we’re trying to do this right. We’re trying to do this so that when you do see Marvelman, people will go, “Yeah. That’s what we wanted to see.” So rather than rush into something and put it out there, we’d rather take our time to do it properly.
Have some questions for Joe Quesada? Please visit the CUP O’ Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Universe forum. It is from this dedicated thread that CBR’s staff will pull questions for our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer session with Joe on Fridays, so get crackin!